Advent - Contain Your Excitement

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Advent is coming! Now that we live in the Great White North it is very tempting to deck the halls with Christmas joy right when December 1st hits.

But we wait.

Advent is a season in of itself and it's worth the wait to let Advent do its work. Here's what we do before the joyous day of Christmas arrives!

Advent Wreath and Advent Decorating

On the first Sunday of Advent we put up our Advent wreath, greenery decorations, lights, and hang stockings.

This will be our first year getting a full size Christmas tree! While we'll probably get the tree in early December, I like the idea of not decorating it with ornaments until Gaudete Sunday. The Advent and Christmas seasons are a marathon - best to pace ourselves!

St. Nicholas (December 6th)

Our first Big Deal feast of Winter!
I grew up with the German style tradition of St. Nick filling stockings instead of shoes. I have a whole post on what we put in those stockings and how we celebrate the day.

St. Lucia (December 13th)

Like all good 90s girls, I was introduced to St. Lucia celebrations via American Girl books. This year Therese is finally big enough to play St. Lucia so maybe we'll add in more of the procession this year! Here's what the celebrations looked like last year.

Marian Feasts - Our Lady of Guadalupe (December 12th) and Immaculate Conception (December 8th)

There might be a lot of feasts in the month of December, but it would never do to forget mother Mary! I don't do anything too big for these feasts, but they are still celebrated.

Our Lady of Guadalupe is patroness of the pro-life movement. We watch the CCC Juan Diego movie and offer a rosary for life.

Immaculate Conception is actually for the conception of Mary, not the conception of Jesus (common mistake). It's also the patron feast day for the United States, and a solemnity. So get thee to mass, pray for the country, and have some sort of white dessert. Boom. Celebrated!

Ember Days - Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday of the 3rd Week of Advent

Those final days of preparation before settling into the welcoming of Christmas! I love Ember Days, but if you've never heard of them you're in good company. They are 3 days toward the beginning of each liturgical season set aside for fasting and prayer and to "to thank God for the gifts of nature, to teach men to make use of them in moderation, and to assist the needy." It contains the cleaning and preparing and forces me to stop and enjoy the fruits of our preparations! Read more about them here.

The beauty of letting Advent be Advent is we get to go all out through the whole Christmas season! This is the first year we will not be traveling to family for Christmas, and I'm planning an epic 12 day celebration. More on that later!

Want more ideas? Check out other Advent posts on this month's CWBN Blog Hop!

Finding a New Beautiful in Postpartum

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Life with three kids - it's a turning point. Three is when there are more kids than adults, more needs than time, and the list of "shoulds" ("I should be getting dinner ready by now." "I should be reading more with the big kids.") reaches heights never before seen as a family of four.

I am a type A person. An overdoer. A constant planner. But even my hat juggling skills are being put to the test.

The temptation to hide in my house and pretend I got this is STRONG. Because I DO "got this" to some extent.
I can get the laundry done (even with all the cloth diaper laundry).
I can manage to feed everyone (even with their insistence that three meals a day are necessary).
I can even manage to homeschool since it directs the energy and attention of the big kids.
....but I can do it a lot better, and as a less stressed mom, if I let people help.

For the past weeks since Matt went back to work, we have been blessed to have postpartum doulas with our family once or twice a week. For someone with my personality, it is a helpful and a humbling experience to have the postpartum doulas here. It means allowing someone to step and and do tasks as good, or better, than I.

It also lets me see that, even with the extra set of hands, the list of tasks does not run out. In some odd way it is freeing to know that even if I had two of me it STILL would not be all done. That list of shoulds would be just as long, and no amount of efficiency would allow me to plow through them all to my satisfaction.

Ultimately the postpartum doulas are my scaffold while we come out of postpartum survival mode and continue to move forward into the beauty of being a family of five. Earlier this year I wrote about the need to value myself enough to move out of survival mode and into the beautiful.
The beauty of friendship.
The beauty of faith.
The beauty of art.
The beauty of connection.
Postpartum is an opportunity to find a new beautiful. 

This is the sixth postpartum week for me. These past weeks I have been preparing to return to the arts I love and activity I crave.
But auditioning postpartum is tough.
Returning to an exercise routine and ballet is tough.
The temptation to just let it go and not put myself out there to be rejected over and over again is high. I don't LIKE being rejected, but rejection is necessary to have the opportunity to perform the art I love. I will be more authentically myself if I am vulnerable enough to go through the (likely) rejections.

A Quick St. Nicholas Gift Guide

Sunday, November 12, 2017

St. Nicholas Day is on the horizon!

In our house St. Nicholas is the first Big Deal Feast of winter. We put up our stockings on the First Sunday of Advent and await the arrival of St. Nick on December 6th.

But what to put in those stockings? Here are the three things I normally include:

1. "Fancy" Band-aids
2. Chocolate
3. Small toy/game

Yes, I give my kids band-aids as a present. You should see the excitement caused by Disney Princess band-aids!
The kids can use the band-aids however they want, provided they only go on their own bodies. Not in your sister's hair, on the walls, floors, or as "armor" on the baby's arm. (I have reasons for my rules. So many good reasons.)

Sometimes I get chocolate coins, but I find the toddlers give up trying to peel them and just end up eating the foil. Now I mostly get really cheap Halloween candy.

We've done waterpaint books, an Uno game, mini-puzzles, and small balls as the toy gift. Normally these come from the dollar store or the clearance section and they have always been a hit.

Now that my kids are getting older, and there are more of them, I like the idea of having a larger shared gift.

My little kids LOVE their My Little Church Magnet Playset from Wee Believers. They are only allowed to play with it during mass, provided they take turns nicely. This will entertain a preschooler through most of a homily!

For older kids, I love this Magi Ornament Sewing Kit. The ornaments could be put to use as the traveling Wise Men for the 12 Days of Christmas or just hung on the Christmas tree.
Magi Ornament Sewing Kit - The Wee Believers Toy Company

This My Pop-Out Nativity would make for a good first Nativity scene if you are short on space.

My Pop-Out Nativity - The Wee Believers Toy Company
If you want to use any of these ideas, Wee Believers sent me a discount code for you to use! KIRBY30 will get you 30% off your entire order.

I pop Overnight Cinnamon Rolls into the oven when we wake up, and they are normally about ready for icing by the time everyone has finished exploring the contents of their stockings. Later in the day we'll read books on St. Nicholas and watch the CCC movie Nicholas: The Boy Who Became Santa.

Simple enough of a celebration to fit into a school/work day, but special enough to stand out for the kids. The magical happy place of liturgical living!

How do you celebrate St. Nicholas Day? Is it a big deal in your house?

7 Misconceptions I Had About Motherhood Before My First Baby

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

As I am currently stuck under sleeping baby #3, I got nostalgic thinking of all the things I believed about motherhood before I had baby #1. Past me, LOL. This is not at all how I pictured motherhood, yet everything I need motherhood to be.

1. Community will just happen

It's like my pregnant mind forgot that all relationships, including while you are parenting, will require time and effort.

Community is not impossible to find, but does need initiative. Isolation does not not breed connection. Making the effort to call up a friend for a short chat, invite someone for a walk around the neighborhood, or showing up for a church event pays off.

2.  You need a "mom tribe”

We've all seen the click-bait articles, don't buy it.
The in vogue belief that all moms need a "mom tribe" leaves the unspoken impression that moms can only have authentic connection with other moms. Now it's awesome to connect with other mothers in the same trench, but nothing beats the perspective giving help of interaction with someone in a different season of life!

3.  I know exactly what I will need for baby

Yes I am the oldest of five and have babysat more kids than I can remember, but that does not mean I know what THIS baby will need. All people have different needs (surprising, I know) and what works for one might not work for another.

Time has marched on and people have come up with some hands-down clever tools for getting through parenting tiny people! No shame in needing to invest in a new baby item when it makes the difference between a happy, sleeping, baby and a screaming banshee baby.

4. I will do “x” parenting style, obviously

I only heard that there were such a thing as named parenting styles while pregnant with my first baby. So naturally I had to find my perfect fit parenting style, and commit to it, right then! Attachment parenting was the "in" thing in my area, and people online were gung-ho about it, so that was what I was going to do!
Then PPD happened. And breastfeeding did not work. And the whole thing came crashing down.

If I had given myself the grace to do what worked, and the space to figure out what worked, I could have saved myself a lot of hard times.

5. “x thing I’ve never tried before” is too hard/too messy/too expensive/won’t work 

I am shocked to find myself cloth diapering, formula feeding, and babywearing into toddlerhood. It is the exact opposite of what I assumed I would do, but it works for us.

It is amazing how many myths about parenting one can buy into when not yet a parent. Cloth diapering was my personal minefield of myths. I thought it was only for hippies who did not care much for personal hygiene anyway. It would be too expensive to get started, and there was no way I could manage it when the only access to a washer/dryer was the laundromat two blocks up.

Then I found out my super cool mom neighbor cloth diapered with a diaper service. I did not think they were crazy hippies and they were probably just as budget-aware as us. I had my first sensitive skin baby and need a solution to the perpetual diaper rash.
So we gave it a shot and loved it!

Now with baby #3 we're even washing them ourselves. Not gonna lie, cloth diapering can totally still be messy but it's a lot less gross than I assumed.

6. I will either feel like I can handle anything or be insecure about everything 

There was no middle ground in my early mothering days: I was either supermom with no problems or completely overwhelmed and failing at everything. I would not have admitted this thought consciously at the time, but my control and security in motherhood was very fragile before my first baby. I was always waiting for the other shoe to drop or for judgement to happen (Mommy Impostor Syndrome could totally be a thing.)

Owning my motherhood was a process. Admitting I did not have it all together was one thing, but accepting I could be good at something, while still struggling elsewhere, was a novel thing for me.
I did not relax into motherhood so much as actively take up my struggles AND gifts in one armload and keep walking down the mothering road.

7. It will get easier when “x”

I held out a mythical "it will be easier when _____" carrot for too long. There is no easier, there is just different. Learning to watch for a difference, instead of waiting for easy, made a huge change in how I mentally handled my current parenting challenges.

Do you see any of your own misconceptions? Think I'm totally off the money? What were some things you believed pre-babies that life debunked for you?

The Longest Night - Felicity's Birth Story

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

This little lady kept us waiting on her birth!

I had a good amount of prodromal labor starting at about 37 weeks. I had the same thing with John so I could at least tell this was not the real deal, but contractions with no baby as an end result is frustrating when you are term and good to go.

Due date came and went.

As the 42 week mark edged nearer, I started (trying) to make my mental peace with the looming likelihood of induction and a hospital birth. I am not against hospitals, or inductions, but the whole situation smelled eerily similar to the progression of events in our first birth that led to such a drastic difference in birth choices. That was not a road I wanted to walk down again.

At 41 weeks I started having more frequent, and longer, midwife appointments to check on me and baby. Halfway through the week we did a biophysical profile.

Each test and check in always came back with solid results. Both baby and I were doing well, but it was mentally getting to me to see that 42 week mark inching closer.

The evening after the biophysical scan I could tell something was different.

Baby had not been in a great position for most of the end of my pregnancy. (She seemed under the impression that my right hip was her own personal teddy bear.) The downside of being so incredibly flexible when not pregnant is the extra hormones at the end of pregnancy make my body too flexible. It's very easy to move baby around, but also incredibly easy for her to slide out of position.

I figured this might be another set of prodromal contractions as my body tried to correct her position (again).

But they didn't stop. I still ate dinner with the family and we made a plan for the evening.

By 5:30 I was feeling confident enough that this was the real deal to give the midwife and doula a heads up. Contractions were still about 8 minutes apart so there was no big rush.

I had made a checklist of things that needed to happen once in labor, and Matt started getting the big things done. I moved the labor and postpartum kits upstairs and got some of the comfort measures and tools set up.

Matt gave the kids a bath and put them to bed about 7:30 as usual. We had made prior arrangements for a sibling doula to be with them during the labor, but it didn't feel necessary to have her there if the kids were just sleeping. We let her know, and planned to update if we needed support later.

After the kids were down, there was time to go through the labor just the two of us. I feel like the labor was in a bit of a holding pattern while the kids were awake. Once they were safely tucked into bed, it felt like labor had permission to really get going!

By 8:00 contractions had ramped up in intensity and were coming every 3-4 minutes. I let the midwife and doula know the change and they both got ready to head over to our house.

Our doula arrived at 8:30 and I hopped into the shower while she and Matt finished getting the beds double made and birth tub ready.
In early labor my best friends are the yoga ball and finding some solitude. Once I hit active labor I want bigger movement, heat, and water. Water y'all, it's amazing.

The midwife arrived a little before 9:00 and I labored on the yoga ball while we checked vitals and listened to baby.
I had tested positive for GBS earlier in the pregnancy so we had to run a course of antibiotics in an IV. It is not a particularly fun experience to be hooked up to an IV bag in active labor, but this was the best course of action to keep baby healthy. I kept reminding myself that once that IV bag was empty I could get the needle out of my arm and get into the lovely, warm, tub!

We had a birth tub from the midwife that can maintain heat, but the water needs to be at the desired temperature when the tub is filled. Matt had started filling the tub while the midwife was doing vital checks, but the water started to run cold sooner than we hoped. So he boiled pots of water on the stove in the kitchen, hauled them up the stairs, and started filling the tub pot by pot.
That's love y'all.

The doula hung with me while Matt worked on the tub. She had put together a Spotify playlist for the labor, and was doing awesome making sure I kept hydrated, rubbing my back through contractions, and heating the rice sock.

I was finally good to get in the birth tub at 11:00 and it was sweet sweet relief!

The baby's less than ideal position meant that I was dealing with a lot more back pressure, but the extra buoyancy in the tub helped take the pressure off my legs and let me try to move more to help baby turn.

By 1:00 contractions had intensified to what I would call transition level contractions. These are long, hard, big contractions.

I'm just going to note again here that this baby was not actually born until 6:30. That would be 5.5 hours to go with transition level contractions. I'm glad I did not know that then.

The backup midwife arrived at about the same time as the big contractions. She's generally there for baby once they're born. Her arrival is comforting to see when you can only hope the finish line is getting close!

After an hour of those contractions I was getting very tired. We decided to have me get out of the tub and check on baby's position. While I was dilating well, baby was not descending yet. ("Are you kidding me kid?!")

It took both midwifes, the doula, and Matt all working hard to support trying to get baby to turn. I honestly lost track of all the different things we tried, but I am impressed with the working knowledge we had on that team. They never seemed to run out of ideas, even though no one had gotten any sleep yet that night.

It had already been a long labor. The midwife gave me another antibiotic dose  and we planned to try and have me eat, hydrate, and rest a bit if possible. I was not tolerating oral fluids well anymore due to the intensity of the contractions so a new IV bag was started. I was so tired I was not planning on moving far anytime soon anyway.

Baby had other plans! I'm not sure how long I was able to rest in bed, but I suddenly woke up very certain that SOMETHING was different. That something resulted in my water breaking.

Normally, the way my births have gone, once my water breaks I'm extremely close to delivery.
Not so this time.
There was a nagging little bit of dilation to go. I think it was at this point I started saying, "How is that possible?!"

Cue more work trying to help baby descend. Her little head still seemed just off centered enough to not fully enter the pelvis.

At 5:30 I got back in the tub. I was clearly going to need the help of the water to hold the positions necessary to get the baby in the right position for birth. I was so tired and ready to be at the end.

Labor had been going for 13.5 hours now. The midwife let me know my options at this point. While me and baby were still doing well on vital signs I was very tired, and I had the option to transfer in order to get an epidural and rest in the hospital. It was not an emergency situation, and she still had ideas of things to try, so the decision was up to me.

I thought about the possibility of transfer through the next many contractions. I had never transferred in labor before and was not thrilled with the idea of a car ride while in transition. As I started adding up the time for each step of a transfer process the more I felt that, at least at this point, transferring would delay the finish line.

It was about this time when I started to hear the kids waking up.
That's right. They had actually slept through the night, despite my decidedly NOT quiet labor happening right outside their bedroom door, and were still just hanging out in their room.
Sound machines, people. They work wonders.

Matt texted for the sibling doula to come for the kids, and I kept working on hanging in there through contractions.
I never actually said out loud that I had decided to stay and keep laboring at home. I just kept going. Expecting everyone else to be telepathic. As one can do in labor.

Shortly after I mentally arrived at the decision to stay, baby (finally!) decided to figure out how this exit strategy worked. It only took a few contractions, and Felicity Anne was born in the water a little before 6:30 after 14 hours of labor.

She arrived at about the same time as the sibling doula. The kids got to come see their little sister in her first few minutes out of the womb.

Matt carried Felicity over to our bedroom, while the midwife and doula helped me out of the tub, and the sibling doula got breakfast for the big kids.

The midwives were busy checking vitals on me and baby, cleaning up, draining the birth tub, and starting laundry. Our doula made me a BLT which tasted like the best thing I had ever eaten.

When we measured Felicity I was shocked to hear she was a chunky 9lb 10oz! She had a dent on the top of her head where she had kept hitting the top of my pelvis during contractions (the dent disappeared after a day or two.) Suddenly the length, and difficulty, of the labor made a lot more sense!

All of the post-birth things take at least two hours. I was very glad we had the sibling doula for the big kids. After an all night labor it is a relief not to have to worry about keeping an eye on the well rested, and excited, big siblings.

We spent a few days just getting reset on sleep after that all-nighter of a birth. The kids have done fabulously with their new sister, and we've all enjoyed getting to spend this postpartum time together as a new family of five.


Thanks for reading if you made it down this far! Here's the birth stories of our two older kids, if you are so inclined. (I can't be the only one who loves reading these things, right?)

Meet the Latest Model!

Friday, October 13, 2017

7 Quick Takes with This Ain't the Lyceum

It's been a busy few weeks around here!


This little lady was born!

Meet Felicity Anne


I'm hoping to get her birth story written up this weekend, but here's some short stats for the meantime:

Born on October 5
9lb 10oz and 21in
14 hour labor
1st water birth 
2nd home birth

EDIT: Finished her birth story! 


She's been a hit with her big siblings.


Matt has done a great job stepping in as homeschool teacher.
The kids think it's really cool because "Dad's never taught anyone before!"

Not true, he taught college students when he was in grad school, but John and Therese are likely his youngest pupils.

I am grateful we decided to enroll in Mother of Divine Grace this year. Getting to quickly print out a checklist of what needs to be done has made it fantastically easier to hand over the homeschool reins.


I have been making great use out of my postpartum kit!

The surprise rock star of the postpartum recovery time did not even make the original list.

One Christmas my mom gave all her daughters (and son-in-law) YETI ramblers with personalized decals. They are fabulous for hanging out by the lake, but I did get a ton of use out of mine until now.

It has a lid that does not involve messing with straws, and insulated enough to keep things at the temperature I want = perfect for postpartum.


It's getting chilly at night here so we've been having some snuggly evenings here in Minnesota!

The other day we had a fire in the fireplace and made some s'mores. The next morning John informed me that we got to have s'mores because "it was the feast day... of the STAR WARS!....So kids can have s'mores for the star wars." 

Bigger Sci-Fi nerds than I, who would be the patron of Star Wars if you could pick? 
I feel like it should be a Capuchin saint. They already have the Jedi robe thing going on.


I am looking forward to finding our new groove with three littles in the house, but I am also looking forward to getting to enjoy our first true Fall!

My mom will be visiting in time for Halloween and this will be our kids first year trick or treating. I don't want to miss it, but that also means I should figure out a warm enough baby wearing costume.

It's going to be a dark hole of Pinteresting and it'll be awesome!

I might do a Tolkien inspired costume just to get to use one of these amazing Middle Earth themed baby wraps.

Thworted in My Reasonable Expectations

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

In case you haven't figured it out from the lack of baby arrival announcement on social media, baby has not been born yet. It's only a few days past due date, but it very quickly felt like time was moving at me.

We all know the feeling of a hope, a prayer, that gets the answer "not yet". I've found the hardest to accept of those "not yet" responses are the ones that come for those hopes that were reasonable expectations.
These are not things that were a stretch or outside of normal.
These were things that seemed almost like certainties.

Not getting the promotion at work even after great reviews from your boss and a steady track record.

Not being welcomed into your neighborhood mom group even though these ladies have seemed perfectly friendly before.

Not finding "Mr. Right" by 35 even with a clearly discerned vocation to marriage.

These are the things that can rile us. The things that make you want to shake your fists at the heavens and demand an answer.

"'For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,' declares the LORD." (Isaiah 55:8)

There's my answer. This is not up to me. This is not even up for my understanding.
Everything in me wants to say "I know, but....". That's normal and that's ok, but I'm not going to find peace that way. Peace will come when I stop riling against the injustice of the situation and start noticing the graces present in the situation.

Here are some of the graces of having a baby taking her sweet time finding her birthday:

Giving those little lungs lots of time to be ready for the hard work of breathing.

Giving me more time to shower my 5 and 3 year old with mommy attention.

Giving my husband and I extra evenings of at home date nights that are so much easier when all kids are capable of going to bed and staying in bed.

Giving me the opportunity to be physically uncomfortable and have something to offer up for others.

That there is still nothing wrong with me or baby, just her needing a little more time in utero, is something to be grateful for - even with the aches of late pregnancy. This is nothing I can't handle. God knows it, I know it, I just have to accept it.

The Last Weekend - An Approach to the Final Weeks of Pregnancy

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Here we are - the final weeks of pregnancy.
The postpartum kit is made, labor stuff gathered, prayer intentions getting compiled. The preparations for a birth are a good distraction from the waiting game for a good while, but they end eventually.

So what is there left to do? We make these last weeks, when we could be sitting around twiddling our thumbs waiting for contractions to hit, into an adventure. I call it "The Last Weekend".

Getting to see the T. Rex. in the Life Sciences building at UC Berkeley the day before Therese was born.

The basic premise is approaching each weekend we have before baby is born as potentially the last weekend. The physical fact is I'm not getting any more comfortable just sitting around at home. Last Weekend means I have to get up and get moving.

At Fort Snelling labeling herself a malingerer in the guard house.
Her other options were thief or deserter. I'd go with malingerer too. 
Last Weekend gives us opportunity as a family to have those bigger adventures we might not be able to do for a few months with a newborn. John now associates the last weeks before a baby sibling is born as "adventure time with Mom and Dad". 

I want them to think of having a new sibling as a positive thing. My attention is very divided in the early weeks with a new baby, so this opportunity to embrace my kids as they are right now is a gift that is not going to come around again.

Minnesota State Fair. Corn dogs and fried oreos were had, and both had their first time on a ferris wheel.
The Last Weekend adventures do not need to be expensive. You might have noticed by now that I call anything out of our usual routine an "adventure". 
That means walking down the street to the pond is an adventure.
Trying out a new park is an adventure.
Having a picnic and camp out in the backyard is an adventure.

It's all about perspective.

Do you do anything special with older siblings before a new baby is born?

Spiritual Preparation for Labor and Childbirth

Monday, August 28, 2017

Somewhere in the last six weeks of pregnancy I hit a wall.

 An "I'm-so-done-with-feeling-huge-and-I-just-want-someone-else-to-hold-the-baby-for-a-minute" wall.

When that wall comes up, I need to shift my focus from my physical discomforts and pay attention to my spiritual preparation for labor and birth. These are just some of the things I have tried in the past, I would love to hear about other practices you use to spiritually prepare for labor!

Mother Blessing

It is very popular to have parties/gatherings to celebrate a new baby, even outside of the traditional baby shower. Past my first kid there really was not much I needed in terms of baby supplies. But I did need prayers and emotional support!

We had a mother blessing with our second child. The Book of Blessings has various forms of this depending on if it is led by a priest, deacon, or lay person - for a group, single couple, or just one mother. One of my good friends led the blessing, we made prayer cards for the baby, pregnancy, and birth, and lit prayer intention candles for each card. (I planned to use the candles during the birth, as a sort of relighting of the prayer, but labor had other ideas.)

I am hoping to make the group mother blessing our parish's Pro-life Committee sponsors, but that might depend on when baby decides to be born!

Prayer Cards from near and far

I found the prayer cards to be a wonderful way to connect with female friends and family who live far away! We decorated our cards at the blessing, and my mom, sisters, and far away friends mailed me their cards. I hung them up where I was likely to spend a good amount of my labor, and I kept them up through baby's first year.

She still has a stack of beautiful prayers in her baby box she will be able to look back on when she's older. I love the idea of a physical reminder for that baby to be able to see how many people were welcoming her, even if they lived far way.

Offering up Labor 

I have had very predictable twelve hour labors so far. That leaves a lot of time for prayer!
Bringing prayer intentions into labor helps me keep my mind off the pain. It is my greatest chunk of time to use as non-stop prayer, and, let's me honest, there's a lot of "offer it up" material!

In my last weeks of pregnancy I collect prayer intentions into one condensed list. I'm hoping to make this baby's list a little nicer looking than my previous loose-leaf binder paper lists.
(Bullet journal people - y'all seem good at making lists pretty. Ideas?)

36 Weeks! #MySundayBest with A Blog For My Mom
If you have a prayer intention for me, leave a comment or send me a message or email! (underthyroof at gmail dot com) I'm due September 23rd, but baby could come anytime starting Saturday so send them as soon as you can so I don't run out of time!

Do you do any spiritual preparation for labor and birth?

Spiritual Hacks for Life with Kids

Friday, August 25, 2017

Linking up with This Ain't the Lyceum for 7 Quick Takes.

We're on the edge of Fall! Some people do New Year's Resolutions, but for me Fall has always been the time for new beginnings. This is when I look back and see what has been working, what needs to be readjusted, and maybe where some priorities are getting forgotten.

Priorities like....having a prayer life?

With tiny people underfoot most of the day, it can be reeeeaaaallllyyy hard to give prayer the pride of place it deserves in my day. But it's a new season and a new chance to try something new and see if it sticks. Here are some of the ways I'm getting in spiritual time while having kids around 24/7.


Take advantage of the kid friendly prayer options

Our parish has a children's holy hour every Wednesday morning in the adoration chapel. Getting a chance to go to adoration and not worry too much about disturbing others is such a blessing!

Growing up, my mom would take all of us kids to her weekly rosary group. It was a group of moms and kids who gathered in one side of the church every Friday to say the rosary together. Not a lot of planning needed, and nobody minded if a baby needed to be soothed or a toddler never stopped organizing the hymnals.

If there is not an offering at your parish, or one nearby, start your own! It doesn't take a lot to invite a family or two over for rosary time. Don't worry about making it perfect or having a spic and span house. Your effort counts!


Make it a routine

When I look at what consistently happens in my prayer life, even in the busy times, it's the things that I do as a matter of routine. We always make it to mass on Sunday's because that's just what we do on Sunday mornings. Blessings before meals are part of the ritual of mealtimes in our house.

One thing we have started with the new school year is having rosary time. About 3pm has worked well. It's post-nap and afternoon snack and the kids have had a little free time. I light a candle on the mantle, hand out rosaries, and roll with it. It's not always easy, but getting started is most of the battle for me.


 Embrace the wiggles

A rosary takes about 20 minutes and you can bet there are wiggles! Lots and lots of wiggles. 
So we have embraced the wiggles.

One technique that works well with my kids is having "walking mysteries". Every other mystery we pace the length of the room with each Hail Mary. Now we have lots of ground rules to keep this from devolving into racing and running into things:

1. If you get to the end of the room early, you still have to wait for the next Hail Mary to start for the other side.
2. No touching anyone
3. Rosaries need to be held nicely (not hitting objects or people.)

Breaking the rules gets a quick warning. If the rules are broken 3 times, we sit down for the rest of that mystery. It did not take the kids long to figure out life is a lot more fun if you follow the ground rules.


Invest in some good children's religious books

I'm talking books with good art, lots of pictures, and are well written. Check out Mater Amabilis or Mother of Divine Grace to see some recommendations for liturgical year or saint books that are age appropriate for your kids.

They are fantastic to bring to mass, adoration, to have on hand for feast days, or just to read aloud and get your kids more familiar with bible stories, saints, and the meaning behind Catholic traditions.


Lower your expectations

I say lower because I seem to fall into the trap of expecting higher level behavior than what is reasonable when it comes to prayer time. 
Define what counts as "good behavior". Is it sitting in one spot? Staying in the pew? Making an effort at whispering in church? Kids cannot meet expectations if they are not clearly defined and communicated.
For rosary time I ask that everyone pick their spot at the beginning of each mystery, and no rosaries in months or on feet.
For mass I ask that everyone stay in the pew, my 3ish and ups follow along with the stand, sit, kneel times, and all questions be whispered. 
In Therese's case, keeping her non-stop commentary and free association whispered is her doing well. For John I have a rule about not putting himself to sleep during mass on purpose. 
Different kids have different struggles.


Explain as you go

It's very hard for kids to behave well if they do not understand what is happening. I do a quick little explanation of each mystery as we say the rosary, point out what part of the mass we are doing right now, and teach them the words for liturgical objects.


Do it anyway

We have had masses in which I completely missed the homily because I was taking the toddler to the potty for what felt like the billionth time. Rosaries that got interrupted so many times I wanted to quit. 
But I make myself do prayer anyway.
Sometimes showing up is the prayer. Even if I'm just showing up to the rosary in my living room. I don't let a bad experience the day before prevent me from trying again today. The kids will not get better at prayer without practice, and everyone needs another chance to get it together. - including me.

What are some of your tips and tricks for praying with kids around?

Postpartum Lessons + What's in My Postpartum Kit

Friday, August 18, 2017

The greatest lesson I learned from giving birth to my first baby was that birth is not the hard part. Birth is a finite thing - that baby is coming out one way or another. What really got me long term, physically and mentally, was postpartum.

Postpartum was a drop kick into deep water that first time around. I went from having regular appointments with my midwife, to the office not even having my file available when I called them about potential PPD within the first six weeks. "Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative" meant that I came home from the hospital incredibly sleep deprived. I had no idea what I needed much less how to get my needs met.

The prep classes from the hospital were about the process and tools for getting through labor, with a nod to postpartum at the end. In fact almost all of the pregnancy books given to me/that I found at the library focused on getting through labor as smoothly as possible, but completely missed the gravity of postpartum care needs.

Once I was postpartum, and in desperate need of help and care, it seemed like the general response of both the medical system and my community was to stop their ears and shut their eyes. The recent study regarding maternal mortality rates was oddly comforting. It's not just in my head, postpartum nurses are ill informed about postpartum dangers and consequently do not respond adequately. The difficulties I went through with my first postpartum experience are not normal and should not have been ignored, but they were.

Hopefully I am now a better advocate for myself in the postpartum period, but frankly that is not something we should be demanding of postpartum mothers! It should not be the job of the suffering, bleeding, sleep deprived, and overwhelmed to get those in authority to do their jobs properly. Period.

I do things drastically differently now.

I am very upfront with my providers regarding my concerns about postpartum, and I don't let non-committal answers slide.

My husband takes at least two weeks off from work if at all possible.

We plan out meals and resources. The time to search for a babysitter, mental health provider, lactation consultant, etc. is NOT during your postpartum. Trust me, get those names and numbers written down and available now.

I educated myself about what true normal is and what it is not.

I learned about myself. The truth is there is a wide gulf of grey between "immediate medical emergency" and "still not ok". It's in that grey space that far too many women spend their postpartum. But it does not have to be so! With my last two babies I have learned the things that get me out of the grey into the light zone of "doing ok".

Nothing here is a magic bullet, but everything in here has been a help to me. Maybe it will help someone else!

Here are the top seven things I keep in my postpartum basket.


The scents that I associate with being calm and supported can make me relax and slow down so quickly! These are the same scents I use in labor, and frequently when having a recovery day during intense dance or theater times.
I have this pod diffuser, but generally prefer to do a drop or two on a cotton ball for the smell. That way if it's not working for me that day, I can just put the cotton ball back in the baggie and it's gone.

Spiritual Support

I completely forgot about the importance of spiritual support in my first postpartum. Prayer and connection to the wider Church is a great way for me to combat the feelings of isolation in those first few weeks. This small crucifix and bottle of holy water live on the dresser next to my bed during postpartum. There will also be a rosary, but it's currently living in the labor kit.


I have a taste in tea that will make real tea lovers cringe. My other favorite is Orange Spice...cringing yet?
But this is what my coffee-lover heart likes when I want something hot to drink but should really be cutting down on the caffeine for a bit. Whatever says homey comfort to you, put it in the postpartum kit!

Cloth Breast Pads

Breastfeeding will likely not be long lived again, but I like to have these cloth breast pads in the postpartum kit just in case. I find the cloth pads much more comfortable than the disposable version. When everything else in your body is a little achy, I believe in upping the comfort level where ever possible!

Belly Wraps

It was a shock to me to try and sit up in bed after my first was born. I couldn't do it! Those poor abdominal muscles have just been through a multi-month stretch and they are plum tuckered out.
Starting about day two or so I like to start gently wrapping my belly. I use a super long wide cotton muslin for wrapping at home, and a Velcro one from Target when out and about.
It makes a big difference for retraining all of my muscles what straight feels like when I've gotten sway backed and off during the final weeks of pregnancy.

Cloth Pads

I'll be honest, I thought it would be a lot grosser to use cloth pads than it is in reality. They are fantastically more comfortable than wearing the giant disposable ones for weeks. The less I can feel like a small child in a diaper the better.


Both of these herbal tinctures are now requirements for my postpartum kit!
After pains were not explained well at all before I had my first, and holy cow they don't get any better with later babies! Taking the AfterEase with ibuprofen did wonders for being able to take the edge off the pain in those early days. I find the ibuprofen works longer, but the AfterEase works faster. Faster is important!
I have learned that the most dangerous time of day for postpartum me is evening and night. ReBalance taken with my placenta pills before bed helps calm the hormonal swings of night wakings and sporadic sleep. (Sleep is still extremely important though people! Do not skimp on the sleep!)

Not in the kit but prepared and ready in the house:

Freezer meals that can mostly be thawed and dumped in the crockpot.

Cookie dough is an accidental addition to our postpartum traditions, but having some fresh baked cookies in those early days has turned into a sweet way to welcome a new member of the family.

Maternity Tea is something I drink all through pregnancy and through my postpartum. I mix up my own infusion herbs from bulk. My recipe is very similar to this one.

Sitz Herbs for healing. I've never torn (knock on all the wood) but sitz bath herbs are still soothing during the recovery period.


For a little background about why I care so much about postpartum care:


What are some of your postpartum must haves? What have you found to be a helpful addition to your postpartum?

Linking up with This Ain't the Lyceum for 7 Quick Takes!

I Seem To Be Obligated to Write This

Monday, August 14, 2017

Here we are again.

I am frustrated that it took deaths for us to draw a line. Again.
I am frustrated, yet again, with trying understand what is expected of me in the face of more evil.
I am frustrated that the best I have heard to do is essentially armchair activism.

In fact, armchair activism seems to be the height of social activism when it comes to addressing terrorism and other human evils in our society. If you have not updated your Facebook status within 24 hours of a terrible, heinous, event then "your silence is your complicity". Hashtag Charlottesville.

This is a small blog. I live a small life. A full life, but a small life. I do not write about each and every thought or struggle I have on this blog. My life is not solely lived online, not should it be.
Do not expect to read someone's blog, or Facebook wall, and expect to see an accurate representation of each and every thing they might be fighting.

I did not write about all the other white supremacy protests, counterprotests, and Antifa tactics we dealt with blocks from our home in Berkeley. (BTW, they were going on well before this weekend.)

I did not write about having to explain to my kids it was not safe to go to the downtown library because grown adults were rioting in the streets. Again.

I did not write about how many times I comforted my little kids during the first few riots when they were woken up, by the still circling helicopters at midnight, terrified that "the mad people were going to get them".

I did not write about how hard it is to teach little kids about the inherent goodness in people when most of the time adults seem to just scream at and past each other.

While I am glad people are finally noticing that we have a serious human crisis going on in this country, I am not ok with getting accused of being complicit in evil because I am not reacting identically to my friends on Facebook.

I am not being silent - I am busy speaking so tiny people can hear.
I am busy interpreting a world for them that, frankly, should not STILL be having the same issues in 2017.
I am busy refusing to break into tinier and tinier ideological factions.
I am busy keeping my humanity alive.

My reaction might be different from yours. That does not make it wrong, and it definitely does not make me complicit in evil. I am going to keep doing the best I can, even if it's not good enough for strangers on the internet.

The 2017-2018 Homeschool Plan

Monday, August 7, 2017

John (Kindergarten)

John is starting for real school this year! He will be using Mother of Divine Grace. We did enroll this year and I've been very impressed with how quickly our consultant responds to questions. It's very comforting to have someone experienced in our curriculum on call!

This year is a lot of reading good books, practicing phonics, math, exploring, and learning to see the beautiful with formal studies of art and music.

Therese (Preschool Year 1)

We do two years of preschool, so Therese is on year 1 of our normal preschool process. This year we use 26 Letters to Heaven as a loose guide to our year. Therese is more into arts and crafts than John, and I think she will very much enjoy the more crafty side of the curriculum. 

In theory she is spending this year gaining familiarity with letters, exploring her world, and getting introduced to numbers and simple math. The reality is that she is a second child who has been listening in on big brother's lessons for a few years now. Most of this will just be reinforcing what she has already heard introduced. I'm a big believer in going slow in these early years so I am not planning to fast track her at all.

She's very excited to officially join in our school time this year!


Preschool Busy Boxes

These are boxes for Therese to choose from when I need to do one on one work with John. They are designed to work on fine motor skills and hand strength and to be self-directed. I posted about these busy boxes in my 7 Quick Takes last Friday and a number of people requested to know what was in the boxes, so here it is!
Box 1: Playdough and plastic cutting tools

Box 2: Lacing cards, pony beads, and shoelaces

Box 3: Clothes pins, pom pom balls, and a silverware organizer. This one will get rotated around with different sorting containers we find around the house.

Box 4: Wikki Stix, various size craft sticks, pipe cleaners. This one is to go to town creating. I'm planning to stick some basic coloring pages in here for Therese to "color" the picture using the objects in the box. It will also get additional supplies throughout the year. 


John will be joining the boys program at the Minnesota Dance Theater this September! He is very excited to be big enough for the "big boys ballet".

He's grown so much in just a year!
Therese is still too young for pre-ballet (life is hard with a late summer birthday) but she will likely start a more formal exercise activity this year too.

Homeschool group

Our parish has a fabulous homeschool group that we are joining this year. They offer various activities, field trips, and enrichment throughout the year. Specifically what is offered depends on volunteer power and interest so we'll see what is on the docket this year at the kick off picnic!

Little Lambs

We are continuing to use the Little Lambs Family Formation curriculum. This is the only year both kids overlap in Little Lambs, and I thought it would be nice to have a part of school be something they can do together.

Typical (planned) schedule

We only have a Kindergartner and Preschooler this year. Formal "school time" only takes 45 minutes to an hour. Tops. That leaves a lot of the day for exploring and adventures. But if I do not plan them they will not happen (fact).

Note: I say all this about to give birth around a month or two into this adventure so we'll see how this gets adapted!

Monday: Library Day! 
Every Sunday I request all the books will will need for the following week then I pick up whatever has managed to make it to the hold shelf on Monday. Our local library branch has great kid play areas and cool extras like hatching butterflies and ladybugs on the librarian's desk.

Tuesday: Flex Day

Both Tuesday and Thursday are flex days.
These are days when we can choose between options like going to the Nature Center or YMCA, do experiments on topics the kids are interested in, and have longer free play at home. Family DIY projects and extra liturgical year prep are options on these days too. The ideal is to stay a little closer to home and not have something we need to rush out the door for every day. These are all activities that can be done without specific time frames and at our own pace.

Wednesday: Children's Holy Hour and Ballet
Our parish has a beautiful children's holy hour every Wednesday morning. There are lots of prayers, songs, quiet prayer time, saint stories, bible stories, etc. You haven't lived until you've heard 15 kids lisping a decade of the rosary! Everyone gets some time with Jesus and if they keep it (mostly) together they get to join the daily mass crowd for donuts.

John has his Ballet class on Wednesday evenings so I am going to have to experiment and see what works best with Therese for that hour. And then figure out Therese + newborn for the hour.

Thursday: Flex Day

Another flex day so same options as Tuesday. One of these days often becomes "catch up on cleaning" day. Little kids really enjoy that day if I give them jobs they can accomplish. They are currently most helpful at: unloading the dryer into the laundry hamper, sweeping with hand brooms and dust pans from the dollar store, and cleaning up anything that can be put into a box or bin.

Friday: Adventure Day!

We only have formal school work Monday through Thursday, so Friday is completely free for getting a head start on adventures! It's a good day to make use of our historical society membership, check out museums, explore new places, or make fancy lunch.

Here we go!

Life is Moving Fast!

Friday, August 4, 2017

Linking up with This Ain't the Lyceum for 7 Quick Takes!

It's been a while since we had a life update on the blog. Here's what's been going on!


We're at 33 weeks tomorrow! 
This pregnancy has gone very quickly. I suppose that's what happens when there is a move halfway across the country and massive summer travels.


This week I have been finishing up gathering the materials for our birth kit and making up my own postpartum and labor support kits.
I like kits. They're helpful.

I'll have posts about what I put in those kits soon!


One thing I'm doing differently with birth is setting up a "reward meal" for after the baby is born. I have zero ideas about what the food should be, but I know I would like to try a good local stout. Moving to a new place that does really good beer while unable to partake has been sad.
The reward meal is even on the birth supply list from my midwife so I'm deciding this is legit.


We start school next week!
With the baby expected in September, I figured it would be better to get the school ball rolling so we don't get too far behind in the new baby flurry.

John is starting Kindergarten (real school!) this year with Mother of Divine Grace, and Therese will be starting her first Preschool year using 26 Letters to Heaven.
More on this year's homeschool plan next week!


If this works it may be one of my more brilliant ideas - preschooler busy kits!

I found these large clear boxes they sell to store scrapbook paper on Amazon and made each one a different theme. We only do school four days a week so there are four boxes. Each one has a different theme. When I am working one on one with John, Therese can choose one of the boxes each day. They're big enough that I'm hoping the box itself will help contain some of the messy (looking at you pony beads and play dough.)

My other brilliant idea, supply boxes for school time only (because I have LEARNED). The kids picked their colors for the year: John is orange and Therese is pink (no surprise there). The individual blue separators come out of the kits so I put their color sticker on the bottom of each piece too.


John did a wetland nature camp most of this last week of summer break. The nature center is less than a mile away from us, which is SO NICE!

About an hour in to John being gone at camp Therese gets forlorn and starts asking when we can pick up John about every 20 minutes.
Then he runs out and they reunite like this and my momma heart melts!

Also, this kid got glasses this week! It's cool because he thinks it makes him look more like Daddy. Whatever works buddy.


In Ballet world update, I think we have picked a ballet school for John and studio for me! This will be his first year old enough to be in the boys program and he's very excited.

I'm using our local Y more to get cardio in on the elliptical and use their barre space. I'm still doing a lot of Pilates and stretching at home, but I'm at the point in pregnancy where I have to be careful how I move so I don't set off the evil chain of cramping. I've found using the elliptical as a warm up is very helpful in that respect!

Our local Y has a fabulous kid space and it's amazingly easier to hold counts in my head without the 2 year old in my face going "WHAT YOU DOING MOMMY?!"

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